There is a very real threat in this whole discussion of how to stay strong in the midst of a sinful world. People who diligently fight sin, who view their world as immoral, who do not want to become like those around them can very easily become arrogant, judgmental escapists with superiority complexes.
Titus was living in decadent Crete, charged with strengthening young churches to the point where they could stand strong against sin, both internal and external. Right alongside Paul’s admonition to create strong leaders, maintain a strong aversion to sin, and to foster strong character is also the reminder that we too were once a whole lot like those we are now not trying to be like at all. Strong, moral people remember their sinful roots. This brings a strong sense of compassion while also standing strong against cultural accommodation.
We ourselves, you see, used at one time to be foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved to various kinds of passions and leasers. We spent our time in wickedness and jealousy. We were despicable in ourselves, and we hated each other. But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not by works that we did in righteousness, but in accordance with his own mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewal of the holy spirit, which was poured out richly upon us through Jesus, our king and savor, so that we might be justified by his grace and be made his heirs, in accordance with the hope of the life of the age to come. (3:3-7)
A desire for holiness without a humble remembrance of our sinful past only breeds haughtiness. Grateful hearts changed by the gospel of grace reach out to a broken world with compassion and a hope for something better.